After you sort out the budget (i.e., the hard truth), you can start looking for a unit which will at least fit into it. Now personal preference and other considerations come into play. Here are some factors that come into our consideration (not in any order).
Age of the flat: You don’t buy your unit for eternity, you will only have the remaining lease for 99 years minus off its age. The rule of thumb of course is the newer the flat is, the more expensive it will be. The remaining lease is longer, and there is a higher chance that you can sell it at a higher price as well. (Or you could take a bet with an older flat, that in the future it will be put into Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).) But then some people might want to stay in an older and mature estate, where you have all the amenities nearby.
(Singaporeans do want to buy in an older estate if it means they could stay near their family. But, I guess it is not an issue for immigrants, as we don’t really have one here. Or you might count your social network as your family, so you might want to stay near, let say, your church or your fellow countrymen, like the budding Burmese community in Pioneer.)
Proximity to MRT station: Love it or hate it, your life depends on the public transport (unless you want to buy a car). The nearer your house to the MRT station is, the more convenient and expensive it will be.
Jurong East: I don’t know how it is with you, but I just can’t imagine withstanding the nightmare that is transferring lines daily in Jurong East MRT station. So, from the beginning we try as much as we can not to look for a unit in the West and the North along the red line. But I guess it also depends on where you work. If you work in Woodlands, it might be a good idea to buy a unit nearby, as the units here (from Bukit Batok all the way to Yishun, actually) are cheaper than the national median price.
Proximity to the city: A no-brainer. Although you can say that Singapore is such a small city, but you still call NTU ulu, right. Related to the point of MRT above, as MRT has become more and more unreliable recently, damage control is in order. Reduce your need to take long MRT trips as much as you can, although admittedly the breakdowns can happen anywhere and anytime. (Exception: I have mentioned in the previous post that suburb but mature estates such as Tampines will be nice — and expensive — as well.)
Condition of the flat: The first unit that we viewed was bad, as in really bad. It’s like we would need to tear down the whole unit and build it up again from scratch. It needs a major renovation and plastic surgery. Of course, the purchase price will be much cheaper, so if the cost of renovation still justifies the purchase, why not. But then you might not have the luxury of time waiting for the renovation before moving in. On the other hand, there will be some units which are ready to move in immediately. The premium will be higher, but you don’t have to do any renovation. On renovation itself, some will prefer to do some renovation so that they could arrange the house according to their personal taste, but some prefer to buy a ready-to-move-in house.
Condition of the neighbourhood: This only applies to older estates, I guess. In older estates, some neighbourhoods might not be well-maintained and do look nasty. I agree that you mostly will spend your time in your house, but still it helps if the surroundings are nice. And that’s the problem with the first unit that we viewed — its neighbourhood was bad as well.
Upgrade: Again, this only applies to older flats. Check whether the unit that you wanted has been upgraded or not. In one unit that we viewed, the COV is very low, but then they tell us that the payment for the lift upgrade has not been made and we need to pay for it — a hefty sum of $13,000. You can check the status of the unit’s upgrading/estate renewal programmes here. (Especially if you want to stay in an opposition ward, if you know what I mean.)
Corridor vs. corner unit: Again, only applies to older flats, where the flats are facing common corridor. Advantage of corner unit: you can buy the additional space in front of your house and hence have a larger space, more convenient and peaceful as no one will walk pass by your unit.
Proximity to workplace: Not sure whether it will come into your mind or not, but for us it is a happy coincidence that we only need to take a short bus trip from our house to our workplace. (I will no longer be stationed in NTU starting from mid-July — an also happy coincidence with the timing with me moving to the new house.) And a bit ironic, though, after all the previous emphasis on proximity to MRT station, we will probably use buses more.
North-South vs. East-West facing: Basically, the disadvantage of East-West facing unit is it will be warm during sun rise and sun set (like my place now in Jurong West).
High floor vs. low floor: More noisy, dusty, insects/cockroaches (?) for low-floor units. Cheaper as well.
Other factors: Feng Shui and stuffs. Our unit is in the 4th floor, and we realized that actually we should think according to how the Chinese think. Four is a bad number and we should have asked for a lower price. But we didn’t, because we think according to how our Feng Shui-sceptic brain thinks, as in we don’t really care whether it’s 4 or 8 or 13 or whatever.
Anything that I miss?
In the end, life is full of trade-offs and such will be the case here. You simply can’t get everything (cheap price, good location, new flat, etc.), unless you are really, really lucky. In the end it will come to what your primary and secondary preferences are. You might have your own particular preference, e.g., Jurong East MRT station which becomes a major factor for us. Another thing is the owner’s agent will somehow conjure up all the good things for the unit (can’t be blamed, though, they are just doing their job as salesman). For example, if the unit is really in a bad shape and needs major renovation, the agent will say that you will have full freedom to renovate your house according to your dream. So, you better have some idea first of what kind of unit that you want.
Ok, next post I will start to talk about the procedure itself.